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Underwater archaeology

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Author Topic: Underwater archaeology  (Read 91 times)
Deanna Witmer
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« on: October 19, 2010, 01:11:30 pm »

Challenges
Underwater sites are inevitably difficult to access, and more hazardous, compared with working on dry land. In order to access the site directly, diving equipment and diving skills are necessary. The depths that can be accessed by divers, and the length of time available at depths, are limited. For deep sites beyond the reach of divers, submarines or remote sensing equipment are needed.

For a marine site, some form of working platform (typically a boat or ship) is needed. This creates logistics problems. A working platform for underwater archeology needs to be equipped to provide for specialist remote sensing equipment, analysis of archaeological results, support for activities being undertaken in the water, storage of supplies, facilities for conservation for any items recovered from the water, as well as accommodation for workers. Equipment used for archaeological investigation, including water dredge and air lifts create additional hazards and logistics issues. Moreover, marine sites may be subject to strong tidal flows or poor weather which mean that the site is only accessible for a limited amount of time.

Underwater sites are often dynamic, that is they are subject to movement by currents, surf, storm damage or tidal flows. Structures may be unexpectedly uncovered, or buried beneath sediments. Over time, exposed structures will be eroded, broken up and scattered. The dynamic nature of the environment may make in-situ conservation infeasible, especially as exposed organics, such as the wood of a shipwreck, are likely to be consumed by marine organisms such as piddocks. In addition, underwater sites can be chemically active, with the result that iron can be leached from metal structures to form concretions. The original metal will then be left in a fragile state. Artifacts recovered from underwater sites need special care.

Visibility may be poor, because of sediments or algae in the water and lack of light penetration.[13] This means that survey techniques that work well on land (such as triangulation), generally can not be used effectively under water.

In addition it can be difficult to allow access to the results of the archaeological research as underwater sites do not provide good outreach possibilities or access for the general public. Work has been done to bridge this difficulty with the excavation of the Queen Anne's Revenge.[14]

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